​South Australia kicks off AU$2.8m driverless airport shuttle trial

Bus transfers between Adelaide Airport's terminal and long-term carpark might soon be driverless, with the state government and the airport trialling the use of autonomous electric shuttles.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The South Australian government, in partnership with Adelaide Airport, has kicked off a AU$2.8 million trial of driverless shuttles, used to transport passengers to and from the airport's terminal and the long-term carpark.

Should the trials prove successful, the driverless shuttles will be become a permanent part of the airport's operations, with Adelaide Airport managing director Mark Young explaining a small fleet of autonomous electric vehicles would replace the airport's current diesel-powered shuttle buses.

"Adelaide Airport is keen to be an early adopter in this space. This will be a flagship project that, following a full feasibility study, has the potential to substantially improve customer service to match the expectations of visitors and travellers to our modern gateway airport," Young said.

"Their compact size and agility will enable them to operate on a dedicated path at an increased frequency, potentially operating 24 hours a day, reducing road congestion, and significantly lowering carbon emissions."

The project will include new bus shelters that feature solar PV, LED lighting, CCTV and Wi-Fi, while the buses will use a dedicated charging station partially fed by the airport's existing onsite 1.17MW solar PV generation, Young explained.

The driverless shuttle trial is one of seven projects to claim a share of the South Australian government's AU$10 million Future Mobility Lab Fund, aimed at driving the local development of autonomous vehicle technology.

Similar to the Adelaide Airport trial, Flinders University will receive AU$1 million to work with the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia on a three-year, AU$4 million driverless shuttle project.

Initially the vehicle will shuttle students around the university's Tonsley campus, with future plans to extend to its Bedford Park campus and local public transport hubs.

Driverless car supplier RDM Group will also receive AU$1 million towards a AU$1.8 million driverless cargo pod trial, with the aim of developing a market-ready autonomous delivery pod within a year.

"As a government, we have been focused on fostering the development of an autonomous technology industry in South Australia to claim a share of an industry predicted to be worth AU$90 billion globally by 2030," SA Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said in a statement.

"Our Australian-first driverless car trials, our Australian-first law changes to allow for on-road trials, and our international Driverless Car Conference sent a message that we are the place to do business when it comes to autonomous vehicle technology."

In March, the South Australian government approved on-road trials of driverless cars on the state's roads after the state government and national independent road research agency ARRB Group successfully carried out the country's first driverless car trial on Adelaide's Southern Expressway.

The November 2015 trial involved two Volvo XC90 vehicles that demonstrated automatic lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and active queue assist.

ARRB Group announced its intentions to run the trial a few months prior, saying at the time that it was in discussions with other Australian governments to run similar trials.

"Driverless cars have a range of benefits that could significantly improve road safety and the quality of life of everyday Australians, add to the nation's economic competitiveness, and help relieve rapidly growing congestion that is crippling our infrastructure and creating productivity deficits in our capital cities," ARRB Group managing director Gerard Waldron said at the time.

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